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Clemson Student Ticketing Has Problems, But Students Have Brunt of Blame

NCAA Football: Kent State at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ve missed it, Clemson has a student attendance problem. After the Boston College game Coach Swinney, as well as a lot of media members, noted the rather sparse attendance on the Hill. This past weekend against Wake Forest that attendance wasn’t much better. When asked about it after the game Dabo mentioned the fire marshal had made some decision and it was out of his hands.

After a lot of speculation in the media about the problem over the last few days, Clemson released a rather interesting set of numbers as well as an official explanation for how ticket and entrance policies have changed.

Before we look at these numbers, it is important to look at the current ticketing policy for Clemson students. Many alumni will remember their time camping out for tickets. While the exact rules changed, camping out for tickets was a time honored tradition. Coach Swinney and several players even came out to deliver pizza to students waiting in line ahead of the 2008 South Carolina game ticket distribution.

Several years ago Clemson did away with camping out and switched to an online ticket distribution system. This has taken a few forms as well with this year seeing a true lottery system being implemented. Students have a specific window to sign up for the lottery. There is an IPTAY Collegiate Club lottery earlier in the week with a limited distribution, then a lottery for each class on different days. A student in IPTAY that does not get a ticket in the IPTAY lottery can still get a ticket through their class lottery.

If you are selected for the lottery you get a chance to select a seat. But seats are general admission by section. The three sections are lower deck, upper deck, and Hill. As long as a student and all of their friends get a ticket in the same general section then they will be able to sit together. The biggest change this year is the elimination of block seating. Greek organizations, as well as any other student organization that had applied in the past, no longer have access to reserved blocks of seating.

The biggest change has come from entrance policies for the Hill. Now tickets are tied to CUIDs and students must get them scanned before entering the stadium. Apparently for the Hill there are only 2 gates with 1 person scanning tickets at each gate. That is why the numbers you see below are so low 7 minutes from kickoff. That’s a problem the AD needs to fix, and students should be getting to the stadium a little bit earlier to make sure they are on the Hill before the team runs down.

So now that we’ve covered the policy, here are the numbers released by the Clemson Athletic Department.

Clemson Student Attendance

Game Total Tickets Available Total Student Attendance Hill Tickets Allocated Hill Attendance 7 min before kick Hill Attendance
Game Total Tickets Available Total Student Attendance Hill Tickets Allocated Hill Attendance 7 min before kick Hill Attendance
Kent State 10724 9122 3000 896 2444
Auburn 10724 9772 3000 1720 2713
Boston College 10724 7896 3000 1034 2062
Wake Forest 10724 7613 3000 898 1539

The numbers aren’t pretty. Clemson distributes just shy of 11,000 tickets for each game. And all of those tickets are claimed via student lottery. Yet the best attendance so far has been Auburn, at 91% capacity. Think about that. A top 10 matchup featuring Auburn and our defending national champions Clemson couldn’t even get students to attend.

Attendance isn’t just a problem on the Hill, it is a problem throughout the student section. Looking just to the right of the Hill the bleachers have been pretty empty for 2 games in a row. Someone made a comment to me that against Boston College that was because someone had a few too many beers and puked. Maybe that is true, but after seeing that exact same spot empty against Wake Forest I’m a bit skeptical.

Now I understand things come up. People get sick, family emergencies, even school work can affect attendance. But 9% of those that actually wanted to get a ticket couldn’t be bothered to attend Auburn vs Clemson? That’s a problem and that is a problem on the students; not the administration, not the AD, and not the football team.

Think about this, more students attended the Kent State game than attended Boston College or Wake Forest? Freakin Kent State shouldn’t have better attendance than 2 ACC opponents.

Fixing the problem isn’t going to be simple. There is already a mechanism in place for students to return tickets if they can’t attend. Better visibility for that will hopefully help. But there has to be some incentive to prevent students from requesting tickets and not attending. Maybe revoking ticket access for those who do not attend is one option. Another option would be to award priority points based on students attending not only football games, but other Clemson athletic events. Then the lottery could be weighed more towards those with more points to ensure that those who are invested in Clemson athletics are rewarded with attendance.

The elephant in the room here though is to start charging for tickets. Clemson is unique because they are the only school that does not charge students for tickets. There is no season ticket option for students, and there is no mandatory athletics fee every student is charged as part of their tuition and fees. As much as it pains me to say it, it may be time to start charging students for tickets.

If students are invested in buying tickets, say $50 for a season ticket, they have every reason to actually attend. Yes, it is a burden on students, even at $50. But with demand so high for student tickets something has to be done to make sure that students that want to be there actually show up. None of this nonsense about 10% or more of student tickets going unused. It reeks of an entitled student body, or a healthy portion of it, and it needs to be fixed.